The Two Sides of Competition
The willingness and desire to compete is a necessity in the pursuit of excellence. Competition is a driving force for many people, and can be an extremely positive motivator. However, there are two sides to competition. The side we operate from is based on our purpose and will determine whether we are pursuing excellence or success.
I need to take a moment to define excellence and success:
Excellence - the pursuit of your personal best
Success - your superiority over someone else based on your comparison with them
Notice excellence is NOT your personal best, it’s the pursuit of your personal best. The pursuit is where excellence is. Also notice, success is not process based. It’s outcome, successful or not successful, is based on who you are comparing yourself to.
Why Should We Care?
The side of competition we are most familiar with, and surrounded by in society, is that of external comparison. The purpose of this side of competition is to win. That’s the measuring stick and how we decide if we are successful or not. Win the game, sell more than my associate, maximize the deal … that’s what winning a competition looks like.
This is how much of society is structured and how most people live their lives. The competition is the motivating factor to measure up, prove your worth, or demonstrate your superiority. The comparison gives you immediate feedback on the competition.
The other side of competition which is less familiar to us, and is uncommon in society, is that of internal comparison. This side of competition is constantly pulling at the question: did I improve? Basing our assessment of success on this gauge pushes us down the path of excellence. Win? Great, what did I learn? Finish third in sales this month? Great, what did I learn?
The constant reflection and focus on growth is contrary to the finality of external comparison. At the root it centers on the process, rather than the result. There is no self-worth tied to results or superiority to be claimed. With internal comparison you are only competing with yourself.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Coaches and bosses love team members that are willing competitors. However, there is a difference between the two that must be acknowledged and honored. While the external competitor can often achieve high levels of success, excellence is reserved strictly for the internal competitors. Here are a few thoughts on growing the ability to grow your internal competitor.
I love competitors. There is a pureness to what they bring to a team. They go for it despite the fear of the unknown. They don’t hold back. Ever. Competitors don’t always win, but they are always moving towards excellence.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.